The Bernalillo County Commission’s Thursday decision to vote down two ballot initiatives was seemingly based less on space and more on ownership. A majority of the commission spoke against adding two Albuquerque ballot initiatives, citing ballot space and saying the proposals should be on Albuquerque municipal ballots instead of county-managed ballots. Commissioner Wayne Johnson said he wasn’t comfortable with carrying city proposals on the county-managed ballot without an explicit process. “Until we have a process that is clear, it’s far smarter for us to just not place either items on the ballot,” Johnson said. At issue were two initiatives city councilors wanted to go before Albuquerque voters.
The Bernalillo County Commission voted down two city initiatives on Thursday afternoon that would have appeared on Albuquerque ballots in the upcoming general election. Commissioners cited lengthy wording and ballot space as reasons to not include two questions previously approved for the ballot by the Albuquerque City Council. See the full story on why the county commission rejected the proposals here. Commission Chairman Art De La Cruz criticized the city council for not sending enough instructions to the county on how the questions would read on the ballot. “This is a city matter first and foremost,” De La Cruz, a Democrat, said.
Because of a disagreement between the Albuquerque City Council and Bernalillo County Commission, it’s not clear which ballot initiative voters will get to vote on—or if either will even be on the ballot. During a Bernalillo County Commission meeting last week, commissioners did not discuss either of two recent ballot initiatives sent to them by the Albuquerque City Council. In fact, neither even appeared on the agenda. One initiative, prompted by a successful petition drive, would require some employers to provide sick leave to employees. The other would increase public campaign finance dollars to Albuquerque mayoral candidates.
The developer of the controversial Santolina development in western Bernalillo County poured nearly $36,500 in June in successful efforts to defeat vocal opponent Adrian Pedroza in the District 2 commission race. New Mexicans for New Mexico, a political action committee, raised nearly $64,500 from April through the end of June. More than half of that came in the days leading up to the June 7 primary from Western Albuquerque Land Holdings LLC, the Arizona-based developer of Santolina, according to afinal report filed Thursday. Breaking Bad actor and Albuquerque Public Schools board member Steven Michael Quezadawon the three-way Democratic primary on June 7. New Mexicans for New Mexico bought billboards, hired canvassers, sent mailers and used robocalls to support Quezada and Robert Chavez as well as criticize Adrian Pedroza, who opposes the development.
While Democrats and Republicans in New Mexico began casting ballots weeks ago with early and absentee voting, today is election day where tens of thousands more are expected to cast their ballots. While much of the attention will be focused on Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders duking it out in the presidential primary, there will be a number of down-ballot races with big implications going forward. We took a look at the thirteen races you need to watch tonight when polls close at 7:00 p.m.
Senate District 17
Democratic incumbent Sen. Mimi Stewart’s runs to retain the senate seat in SD17. In 2014, the Bernalillo County Commission appointed her to fill the vacancy left by Tim Keller when he became State Auditor. Former State Senator Shannon Robinson, who held the SD17 spot for 20 years before losing to Keller in 2008, will face Stewart and try to reclaim his old Senate seat.
A new political action committee of unknown origins inserted itself into a hotly-contested Bernalillo County Commission race with a decidedly nasty mailer the day before the primary election. The mailer, from a PAC called “Committee for the Truth District #2,” aggressively attacks candidates Adrián Pedroza and Steven Michael Quezada while ending with the phrase, “MAY THE LORD GUIDE YOUR VOTE!!!”
Pedroza and Quezada are vying, along with Robert Chavez, in this week’s primary for the Democratic Party nomination for the seat currently held by Art De La Cruz, who is term-limited and cannot run again. It’s unclear who is behind “Committee for the Truth District #2.” The mailer lists John Davis as treasurer. NM Political Report is choosing to not run pictures of the mailer because of at least two demonstrably false claims written on it, which we will not publish here. When NM Political Report called the phone number that the PAC left with the business that printed the mailer, a person on the other line said, “Wrong number,” and quickly hung up.
When the Bernalillo County Commission considered and eventually approved the first stages of a controversial planned community last summer, commissioners took public subsidies for the development off the table. Nine months later, those subsidies are back on the table. Last week, Western Albuquerque Land Holdings (WALH), the company set up by London-based multinational bank Barclays and two other investors behind Santolina, submitted an application with Bernalillo County for 40 public improvement districts (PIDs) for the planned development. Santolina is a planned community that developers say would cover 22 square miles of land on Albuquerque’s West Side and house up to 90,000 people over the next 40 to 50 years. Critics call Santolina sprawl development while proponents argue it is tailored for the area’s projected population growth.
An Albuquerque teacher officially announced she will run for a House seat she lost out on earlier this year. After applying to fill the District 21 spot last month, Democrat Debbie Sariñana announced on Thursday that she would run for the spot that has seen two vacancies in the past year. Sariñana told NM Political Report she chose to announce her candidacy now because primary elections are next June and candidates cannot raise money during the legislative session that starts next month. Sariñana said she grew up in the district and moved back after finishing her college degree. She said working as a teacher in the area has shown her how many people are struggling with things like jobs and healthcare.
The Bernalillo County Commission voted to appoint Idalia Lechuga-Tena to the House of Representatives to fill a vacant seat in the New Mexico House of Representatives on Tuesday night. Lechuga-Tena, one of three nominees, won by a vote of 3-2. NM Political Report spoke with Lechuga-Tena before the meeting about accusations that she does not live in House District 21 and that she voted when she was not a U.S. citizen in 2003. The vote was swift and there was no discussion from the Commission regarding her qualifications or that she voted in an election before she was a U.S. citizen. Both Republican commissioners, Wayne Johnson and Lonnie Talbert, along with Democrat Art De La Cruz voted in favor of Lechuga-Tena.
A candidate announcing he is running for county commission usually doesn’t make national headlines. But when an actor who played one of the more popular supporting parts on one of the most beloved shows of the past decade announces it, then outlets around the country pay attention. Steven Michael Quezada is an actor and member of the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education. He announced that he wants to replace Art De La Cruz on the Bernalillo County Commission. De La Cruz is term-limited and cannot run again in 2016.